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Sunday, 03 June 2012 12:12

Email to Eddie Cross, MDC MP, recording a meeting between an unnamed person and a retired Zimbabwe Army General

I had the rare opportunity of meeting a retired general and engaging in discussions that lasted more than 3 hours. I deftly manipulated the discussion so we spent more time talking about hard politics. In particular we discussed the constitutional reform process, elections, succession, the position of the military with regards contemporary political issues and the security situation now and in the foreseeable future.


I will share with you only snippets of what I perceive to be the most important issues that arose from the discussion.

The military, as is Zanu Pf, is totally opposed to the draft constitution produced by COPAC, and they have resolved to ensure that the draft is not endorsed and should never be brought to a referendum in its current state. They have joined forces with Zanu Pf in their condemnation of the draft, and they have developed a three-phased strategy to deal with the issue, and it goes something like:


Phase one, which they are currently implementing, involves critiquing the draft, and possibly shredding it to pieces, and convincing the nation and the world that the document is so deficient as to be unsuitable for a constitution. The conclusion of this phase would be marked by Zanu PF, with the support of the military, openly rejecting the draft document in its entirety and pressing for the dissolution of COPAC and closure of the constitution making process.


Phase two would involve President Mugabe announcing election dates and dissolving Parliament. Zanu PF would insist on holding the elections under the old constitution, and would dismiss any protestations by the MDC and any threats to boycott the poll as inconsequential. They would do everything possible to secure victory for President Mugabe and the party, the focus being on controlling both the House of Assembly and the Senate.


The final phase, which would come immediately after the elections, would involve the Zanu Pf dominated parliament selecting a constitutional review committee to draft a constitution. The committee would depend on the COPAC outreach document, the Kariba Draft, the Constitutional Commission Draft that was rejected in 2000 and the current Lancaster House Constitution as the main source documents in coming up with a new draft constitution. The draft would be taken to a referendum within the shortest possible timeframe.


Zanu Pf envisage that the new constitution would retain an all-powerful executive president and provide for a way for President Mugabe to hand over power to successor who would guarantee his safety.


I spoke to a senior MDC-T official who professed ignorance about this Zanu PF strategy. And when I asked him how the MDC would possibly respond to such developments, he said he was not sure how. His honest opinion was that the MDC was ill-prepared to respond to such a scenario and the party's only recourse would be to turn to SADC and the international community with pleas for intervention.


The constitution envisioned by Zanu PF would provide for a clear succession procedure, where the VP would take over and complete the term of the president should anything happen so that he is unable to complete his elected term. This then places VP Mujuru in a better position to take over from Mugabe. This is probably what has ruffled Mnangagwa's feathers and compelled him to publicly declare his willingness to contest for the top job.


Contrary to what is peddled by the media, Gen Chiwenga does not lead a faction in Zanu PF and is not interested in taking over from Mugabe, either as party leader or state president. He actually belongs to the Mnangagwa faction, and is instrumental in achieving the militarization of the party. When he retires, he would like a position in the politburo, a Senate or parliamentary seat and probably a ministerial post.


Chiwenga's vision is to see the military depending less on funds from treasury, and relying instead on profits generated by businesses in which the military is a JV partner. He is the brains behind the mining of diamonds by the military in Chiadzwa in conjunction with Anjin of China; the acquisition of platinum claims from the ZMDC in Selous and the creation of a JV (Global Platinum Resources) between the ZDF and Norinco of China; the acquisition of vast tract of agricultural land across the country and the acquisition of prime land in Harare where the army and its Chinese partners are building what could be Harare's biggest hotel. Three other hotels are planned for in Mutare, Bulawayo and Masvingo. His focus is therefore on weaning the military from the state during peacetime, and not on running for political office.


On the issue of national security, the general said the military was not engaged in rhetoric when they say they are not prepared to countenance a possible MDC victory. They mean it and they are ready to take over power in the event the MDC wins the next election.  On the issue of elections he said there was nothing that could stop President Mugabe and Zanu PF going ahead with the elections in 2012.


He said the reasons for wanting the elections this year were totally different from the reasons peddled by the media, namely that Zanu PF wanted to have the elections before age and health of their presidential candidate, President Mugabe, deteriorated to levels that would make it difficult for him to endure the rigours of the campaign trail. In other words, the media and some people in Zanu PF that we have spoken to have suggested that an early election was part of the Zanu PF strategy to manage the succession issue.


But the retired general said Zanu PF was concerned about possible pressure from the international community, especially from countries perceived to be unfriendly, wanting to monitor and observe the elections. The party was also concerned about the international media, which it perceives to be largely hostile, focusing on Zimbabwe's elections and reporting in a way that would likely influence opinion against them.


According to Zanu PF's analysis, 2012 is the most ideal year to have elections . . . the new administration in Paris is focused on domestic issues. Germany is expecting elections in 2013 and Chancellor Merkel is focusing on winning a crucial third term and her biggest preoccupation is finding a lasting solution to the economic crisis afflicting Europe. Brussels is inward looking and under pressure to find solutions to the crisis that threatens to unravel the union. The US is preparing for elections in November, and the UN and the world media are focusing on the crisis in Syria and the possible pre-emptive strike on Iran and the consequences of that on world peace.


So Zanu PF believe that this is the time most ideal to have elections in Zimbabwe, when global attention is focused to more important developments across the world.


This was a completely new revelation, which is at variance with what are generally believed to be the reasons for Zanu PF wanting elections as soon as possible.


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